Hobbies are important.
When I was a child I collected old postcards and my sister collected stamps. I did ballet and was a brownie and she used to go ice skating. Then she become really interested in music and I fell in love with horse-riding and spent my days at the stables. Hobbies were really important to us and a key part of our individuality our development and identity.
As teens and into our twenties they went a bit by the wayside, which is a shame. They could have been a really useful way to deal with the stresses of university and relationships that were all consuming. Then for a while work and having young children monopolised my life. Somehow in my middle years I have come back to them.
Now I take photographs, read and occasionally I make simple crafts from nature. I play tennis too. Moments that are mine and not tied up in being a mother or a wife, home-maker or writer. I have far less time for the hobbies I love than I did as a child but they are precious still. I know that they are not a selfish indulgence but that hey are absolutely vital to my emotional health.
Why are they so vital?
Hobbies allow us to escape for a while from the pressures and stresses of every day life. This applies to children too. Academic learning and consequent testing can be stressful, as is navigating life online and socially. Hobbies allow a break from all of that and allow children to indulge their unique interests. In doing what they love, a child will often get into a state of flow and really ‘be in the moment’ rather than worrying about the past or what’s happening tomorrow. Being present is a very healthy state to be.
Some hobbies are competitive and some are not, but nearly all hobbies allow us to develop skills that enable us to feel capable, informed or competent the more we practice. This is great for self esteem and confidence.
Many hobbies make our bodies stronger or our eyes sharper, our craft skills better, our ears more attuned. They embody learning through play and we feel strengthened by them.
Hobbies often bring new friendships and relationships and this sharing of an interest with like minded others helps children build a separate community of friendship. Hobbies are great for a child’s social development as well as a useful asset if school friendships or home life go through testing times.
Here are a few ways you can nurture children’s hobbies…
Encourage individuality and offer support
Sometimes children just want to do the same hobbies as their friends. Try and encourage them to explore their own interests if possible and to find what they love. Be aware they may need a little hand holding to try something new on their own. Keep an eye out for what floats their boat and perhaps help direct it. Are they always twirling and tumbling? Maybe gymnastics could be fun.
Present your child with options
Your daughter may not have heard of kick boxing or origami and your son may not think boys ballet is even a ‘thing’ Let them know what is out there, available and affordable to you.
Encourage ‘free hobbies’
Free in terms of money and free in terms of the times they can practice it. This allows them to tap into their interest whenever they please without timetable of r financial constraints. I’m thinking hobbies like jogging or reading, or even learning a new language on a computer programme. free hobbies take time and money pressures off and mean this particular interest is always easily accessible.
Take them lightly
If you spend a fortune on equipment and many hours of energy indulging you child’s hobbies then when they want to pursue other interests it can cause huge resentments. Always keep a balance between your life and theirs.
Do not hinge your hopes on your child being an Olympic athlete or world class musician. Many kids pass through hobbies and interests and it is all part of their development. Take them lightly. See how really committed they are before investing in equipment and accept each interest may not last for ever.
Lose the competitiveness
Hobbies are meant to be enjoyable and fun. It matters not at all whether your child is accomplished at what they enjoy, its all about the process not the product, so as long as they enjoy it ease off. Enough of their lives is about achieving.
As ever children do what you do, not what you say. It is so good for your mental health to take a break and indulge an interest and you want to encourage your children to embrace and enjoy their hobbies throughout their development. Do let them see you take time away from work and chores and relax with your hobby. It’ll do you the world of good.